The last two weeks, we have looked at bad examples of what I am calling the "Put Me In, Coach" mentality. People with that mindset is not only ready to be used by God, they are also aggressively seeking ways to be used, making themselves available. Our bad examples the last two weeks were King Saul and Moses, but our two good examples are Nehemiah and the Apostle Paul (who we have already looked at, but we have more insight to garner from his life). Right now, let's look at Nehemiah.
When Nehemiah heard some visitors' answers to his questions about the conditions in Jerusalem, he was deeply moved: "When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven" (Nehemiah 1:4-5).
When I speak or write, I sometimes substitute the word passion for purpose. Passion is a driving force that activates your creativity and will to do something. Tears of joy and sorrow often accompany that passion as you respond and make yourself vulnerable and available to a need that exists in the world. The first time I spoke about purpose, people in the room wept. I have seen thousands more cry over the years. Tears and purpose seem to go hand in hand.
In 1998, I was watching a television documentary about the suffering of women in Afghanistan and began to cry. I remember praying, “Lord, why am I crying? I don't know anyone there, but if you need someone to go to Afghanistan, I’m willing.” Out of the blue in 2003, I received an invitation to go to Afghanistan from people I didn’t even know. I went and it changed my life and the course of my ministry.
Nehemiah prayed and fasted to clarify his passion and way forward. Then his big break came. One day he was serving the king and the king noticed that Nehemiah was sad. Let’s read the rest in Nehemiah’s own words.
The king said to me, "What is it you want?" Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king, "If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it." Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, "How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?" It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time. I also said to him, "If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the king's forest, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?" And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests. So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king's letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me (Nehemiah 2:4-9).
When the king asked Nehemiah what he wanted, Nehemiah had a ready answer. The king understood what he wanted and could then either say yes or no. There seemed to be no hesitancy or ambivalence on Nehemiah's part. He had prayed and thought out what he wanted to do. Also, notice how little religious jargon there was in his dialogue with the king. Yes, Nehemiah did admit he prayed and that God's gracious hand was upon him, but besides that, he was remarkably natural: "Send me . . . so I can rebuild." "I set a time." "May I have letters?" God was not offended or put off by Nehemiah's desire to help the city of his fathers. At no time do we see that God told Nehemiah to go. He made himself available to go, and asked God's and the king's help.
What do you have a passion to do? What problem do you have a passion to address? Are you clear about what you want to do to engage that passion? I urge you to get the kind of clarity Nehemiah had, and then pray, "put me in, Coach." After that, watch for the door to open and see it as God's help so you can participate in the matter that is close to your heart. Nehemiah had nothing but success when he went home, and you can expect that can kind of success as well, but only if you follow your heart to put yourself in the game where it is most meaningful for you. Have a blessed week!